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Land use plan nets discussion

By Staff | Mar 8, 2019

The Rugby City Council held its regular March meeting Monday evening at City Hall, where they considered several matters including a new comprehensive land use plan, New Year fireworks, and backyard chickens.

After February meeting minutes, bills and financials were approved, attendees heard reports from David Schneibel, Jr. of the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department and Alan Meckle of the local community service program.

Meckle reported 15 new cases since the beginning of 2019, and a total of 62 open cases. He said the community service program now includes only Pierce, McHenry and Bottineau Counties, since Rolette County now has its own program.

Meckle also reported the program he oversees “had the third highest amount of money collected from clients at $10,922.00.”

Mayor Sue Steinke introduced a new comprehensive land use plan, to be implemented in conjunction with an updated Pierce County comprehensive land use plan.

The Pierce County comprehensive land use plan, which was written in the 1980s, is being considered for an update this year. The City of Rugby’s comprehensive land use plan was written in 2014.

“This has been on our radar, since it’s been 2014 since we’ve done the last one, and the county is working on their comprehensive plan this year now, and I went to the last meeting with them,” Steinke said. “And at that last meeting, they (Pierce County) made an offer to go in with them, and they’re paying $7,500 for their plan. And we could join in for $7,500,” Steinke continued. “I think we budgeted in the past year $30,000 for this plan, so I’m not expecting the council to make a decision tonight necessarily, but I think it’s something we need to research fairly soon.”

“The county would like an answer fairly soon; their next (comprehensive plan) meeting.” I would encourage all council members to go to that,” Steinke added. “The county and city are going have to work hand in hand, because a lot of the things that are going to affect us are going to affect them, and a lot of things that are going to affect them are going to affect the city.”

Steinke also encouraged council members to contact Daniel Schwartz, CEO and consultant with Nexus Planning and Consulting for more information. Schwartz is providing services for the Pierce County comprehensive land use plan.

The plan’s place on the meeting agenda drew comments from a resident who aired his concerns before the council and committee members.

Craig Zachmeier, Rugby, told the attendees, “I guess I question the comprehensive use plan, and why there is one being done for 2019, since it’s only five-years-old. The reason I bring that up is what has changed?”

“They fixed the water plant, which is in the comprehensive use land plan; they fixed the water clog problem per se, which is in the comprehensive land use plan,” Zachmeier continued. “They haven’t fixed the infrastructure in the sewer; the clay pipes, the main that’s coming down Main St. Why are we even doing another one when we haven’t followed the last one?”

“So you guys have $30,000 budgeted, and you’re supposed to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. And we do it again with the one that’s already in place. It’s not expired. Why is this even being discussed, and why are we getting a new one?” Zachmeier asked.

Zachmeier questioned whether the 2014 plan had been read and fully implemented in its present form.

“How many (people) have ever read it? So, we’re up here making a decision based on do we need one or not, but yet, we never followed it in the first place. Because everything is in there,” Zachmeier noted.

Zachmeier addressed concerns with the Wentz Canal, which he said was prone to flooding, and the Chalmers Addition east of town, which needs infrastructure repairs and upgrades to handle water flow.

“$30,000 can go a long way towards putting out bids to fix our sewer pipes instead of getting a new land use plan,” Zachmeier asserted. “We could put that off a few years; we’ve got stuff in front of us already in the one from 2014. I would reconsider going in with the county; I would also look at that land use plan, and put it to use, because it’s already there; it’s not expired.”

“We didn’t expect an answer tonight,” Steinke answered. “Perhaps we have a special meeting and discuss all the different options that are out there even the option of not going forward. But the county expects an answer, and I thought the council needed to know the offer was out there, and the council should make a decision.”

Other business for consideration included changes to City Ordinance 415, which would add the hours between 9 p.m. December 31 and 12 a.m. January to the permitted hours of use for fireworks.

City Ordinance 416 had a section added to permit people in Rugby residential neighborhoods to keep up to four hen chickens in their backyards. The ordinance does not permit keeping roosters.

Other business included updates on grants from the federal Stonegarden program, camera purchases for city facilities, and equipment purchases for city parks and recreational facilities.

After a reminder about a city tax equalization meeting scheduled for April 9 at 7 p.m., the meeting adjourned.

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